Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Two items in the news right now cross the boundaries of “sensible” and enter into the realm of “dopiness.”

The first involves a young Jewish man, Stanislav Shmulevich, who as a college student became upset with a group of Muslim students who had made anti-Semitic remarks in a dispute between members of the two religions. You will not read what the Muslim students did in most news accounts, by the way. The Jewish student has been charged with hate crimes for putting the Quran in a toilet on two occasions.

I am opposed to hate crimes as a matter of principle, and this case is as good an illustration of why as any. Did Shmulevich commit acts of mischief? Absolutely. Should he be charged with some crime for what he did? Maybe. Is he guilty of a hate crime? Not by any reasonable standard.

No one was killed or even injured by the act of putting the Quran in a toilet, so whether it was “hate” or just “anger” that motivated Shulevich we can only guess.

But that is the problem with hate crimes: they punish thought by making the punishment for crimes more severe if the perpetrator hates the victim. In the United States I am free to love or hate anything or anyone I please. And if I commit a crime against someone I hate—for example, if I beat some guy senseless with a baseball bat—why is it a worse crime because I dislike him? It isn’t, of course. Whatever hate I may feel for the guy didn’t make his injuries worse, The fact is that I committed criminal assault, and that is all that matters. Hate crimes are one of the odious results of political correctness that belongs on the trash heap of history, and the sooner, the better.

We have all likely read or heard about the tragic story of the news crews that died when their helicopters crashed into each other while they were following a police chase in Phoenix, Arizona a few days ago. There is consideration of charging the man the police were chasing with manslaughter in the deaths of the news crew members.

Now, the guy should not have been eluding police, of course, and in doing so he certainly put at risk of death or injury those who had the misfortune to be in his path. But to assert that by running from police he is somehow responsible for the pilot error that most certainly caused the crash is absurd. No one forced those news crews to follow the police chase; news crews are not compelled by any authority to do that, and they certainly are not compelled to put themselves at risk to cover the news. That is a conscious decision of the pilots, the reporters and their editors.

These examples of over-reaching by our legal system represent the most serious threat to our individual freedoms, for if thought can be punished, and if people can be held responsible for the actions of others over whom they have no control, we are all at serious risk.

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